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Full text of "My Country And My People"

252          MY   COUNTRY    AND    MY    PEOPLE

and entire historical and literary tradition in plays of characters-
that have captured the heart and imagination of the common
men and women. Thus any amah has a livelier conception than
I have of many historical heroes like Kuan Yii, Liu Pei,
Ts'ao Ts'ao, Hsueh Jenkwei, Hsiieh Tingshan and Yang
Kweifei from her intimate knowledge of Chinese plays, as I was
prevented from attending the theatres in my childhood through
my missionary education, and had to learn it all piecemeal from
the cold pages of history books. Before my teens I knew
Joshua's trumpets blew down the walls of Jericho, but I did
not know until I was about thirty that when Mengchiangnii
cried over the bones of her husband who had died building the
Great Wall in conscript labour, the torrent of her tears washed
away a section of the Great Wall. This is a type of ignorance
that cannot be found among the illiterate Chinese.

But the theatre, besides popularizing history and music
among the people, has an equally important cultural function
in providing the people with all their moral notions of good and
evil. Practically all the standardized Chinese notions of loyal
ministers and filial sons and brave warriors and faithful wives
and chaste maidens and intriguing maid-servants af e reflected
in the current Chinese plays. Represented in the form of
stories with human characters, whom they hate or love as the
case may be, they sink deep into their moral consciousness.
Ts'ao Ts'ao's hypocrisy, Min Tzu's filial piety, Wenchiin's
romance, Inging's passion, Yang Kweifei's pampered tastes,
Ch'in Kwei's treason, Yen Sung's greed and cruelty, Chuko
Liang's strategy, Chang Fei's quick temper, and Mulien's
religious sanctity—they all .become associated in the Chinese
minds with their ethical tradition and become their concrete
conceptions of good and evil conduct.

The story of the Romance of the Guitar (P'ip'achi] is given here
to show the type of moral influence of the theatre in general on
the Chinese public and as an example of the kind of story, with
a direct appeal to domestic loyalty, that has captured the
popular fancy. It is distinguished neither for dramatic unity
in the modern sense, being composed of forty-two acts and the
action extending over years, nor for delicacy of imagination
which is better shown in The Peony Pavilion (Moutanfing),